By Christine Gunderson
This month, we’re blogging about good things that actually happened with our writing in 2020. Remarkably, I can think of not just one, or two, but three good things that happened in my writing life this year.
The first is the Omega Zoom. My 2019 Golden Heart class started a monthly Zoom accountability group. We meet to discuss our goals for the month and how to achieve them. But for me, it’s also a monthly reminder that I’m a writer, something I only seem to remember if I’m connected with other people who write.
The women in this group are smart, talented, and make me laugh until I cry. We also share practical information and I actually learn something new every time we talk. If it weren’t for the pandemic, we’d settle for seeing each other once a year at an RWA conference, but now we can see each other once a month on Zoom. It’s wonderful, and I feel like I’m part of a writing community again.
This leads to the second good thing that happened in my writing life this year. One of my Golden Heart sisters has five children, yet she still makes time to write. I asked how she does it, and she said she goes to bed early, gets up early and keeps “weird” hours.
It sounds crazy, but when she said this, I realized I could give myself permission keep “weird” hours, too. I’ve been getting up at 4:00 a.m. to write and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
Thanks to her, I finally figured out that getting up at 4:00 a.m. is only possible if I give myself permission to go to bed at 8:00 or 8:30 p.m. In the past, the taciturn Scandinavian homesteader who lives inside my head and directs my moral compass told me it was lazy to go to bed that early. I also felt somehow that if my family was awake, I had some kind of obligation to be awake, too.
I’ve now chucked this idea in the trash with all the empty hand sanitizer bottles. And I’ve stopped fighting myself. My body is ready for sleep at 8:00 p.m. and I wake up naturally at 3:45 a.m. every morning. In the past I’d roll over and go back to sleep, but I now understand this is how my body clock is wired. This Is The Way as the Mandalorian would say, and I need to roll with it. Now the dogs and I get two full hours of writing in before anyone else in the house even opens an eye.
Writing in third person is the third good thing to happen to my writing in 2020. Prior to this year, all my books were YA novels written in first person, present tense. My agent read a few chapters of the book I’m working on now and asked if I’d be willing to consider writing it in third person, past tense, like normal people.
I was scared. I’d never written in third person before. In fact, I always felt like a little bit of a fraud because I didn’t write in third person.
But I tried it and the result was electrifying. I feel like I’m learning to write all over again. I’m doing things with character and setting that I couldn’t do when I was writing in first person and I love it. The book I’m working on now is different from anything I’ve written before and writing is fun again because I’m learning again.
Words like “dumpster fire” will long be used to describe the year which is mercifully about to end, and these words are utterly appropriate. But there are still a few embers of positivity to be found amid the rubbish. When 2021 and better times roll around, I hope I’ll remember to be grateful for the things that got me and my writing through the epic volcanic mess that was 2020.
And by the way, that meteor that was heading for the earth? It never hit us. Not even close. Also, I don’t know a single person stung by a murder hornet. See? Maybe 2020 wasn’t a total disaster after all.
Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor/reporter and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star, the Wonder Dog. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion, or unloading the dishwasher. You can find her at www.christinegunderson.com